Haleakala National Park

You can’t miss Haleakala. Literally. The 10,000-foot active volcano dominates the landscape as you fly into Maui. The volcano looks rather barren. You won’t see many trees on its long, lazy slopes, and the mountain’s size is difficult to compute. It’s not a craggy mountain that rises out of the ground in the shape of a triangle like you’d find in Colorado. It’s more of a massive hill, but the hill is so big that you can’t see the top or sides. It simply looks like the ground has risen up to meet the sky. The sheer act looking at the mountain is a near-spiritual experience. It makes you feel quite small.

Remember, Maui is essentially two islands fused together, and Haleakala absolutely dominates the larger eastern “island.” This side of Maui is essentially built around the mountain. Even the Road to Hana wraps around Haleakala’s eastern slopes.

The Haleakala volcano is still active, but don’t expect to see any lava flowing. The volcano hasn’t erupted for centuries. However, it’s this centuries-old volcanic activity that makes Haleakala such a draw.

At the very top of the massive mountain, you’ll find Haleakala Crater. It’s a veritable moonscape that feel absolutely otherworldly. Getting out of your rental car at the top of the mountain might make you wonder if you’ve stepped out of a land rover onto mars. It’s barren, dry and inhospitable. It’s also jaw droppingly beautiful.

Haleakala’s violent volcanic past has unearthed minerals that have oxidized in the summit’s thin air. It’s a hilly landscape full of colors that range from rust reds to bright oranges and deep purples. And ascending the 10,000 feet to the top brings you to rare air. You’ll leave all the humidity down below to emerge onto a cold, barren landscape. It’s simply a transcendent experience.

And the top of the volcano is especially beautiful during a cloudy day. The clouds crown the mountain, and you’ll drive through the fog to the get to the top. When you emerge from the mist, it’ll feel like Haleakala Crater is an island in the sky. It adds to the ethereal nature of the mountain top’s alien landscape.

Haleakala National ParkThere are a variety of activities awaiting you at the mountain top. Of course, you can simply hike around for an unforgettable experience. But you can also take advantage of a sunrise or sunset on Haleakala. In these hours of changing light, the colors of the crater shimmer and glow. It’s a scene that brings you into the now. You’ll forget about all you worries and the world down below.

You can also join a tour to the top of the mountain that offers an exhilarating twist. The tour will pick you up at your hotel, drive you to Haleakala Crater National Park and give you a bike. After hiking around the mountain top, you can jump on your bike to cruise down the long, slow slope of the still-active volcano back to sea level. It’s a great way to get some exercise, and you don’t have to peddle yourself to the top of the 10,000-foot peak.

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Price: Free
Kula, Maui